Vatican Secret Archives: 6 of the most intriguing documents in church history

One hundred secret documents held in the labyrinthine vaults and tunnels of the Vatican’s Secret Archives are on public display in Rome for the first time. 

Normally kept under lock and key and not available to the public, the documents will be shown in the Capitoline Museums until September to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Secret Archives. The archives have always aroused curiosity, no more so than when they were featured in the Dan Brown novel “Angels and Demons,” in which Harvard “symbologist” Robert Langdon races against time to stop a secret religious order from blowing up the Vatican. The priceless documents span more than a millennium, from the 8th century to modern times, and feature a cast of historical characters ranging from Martin Luther and Henry VIII to Galileo and the warrior monks of the Knights Templar

Here are six highlights:

Daniele Fregonese-Vatican Secret Archives/Reuters
Proceedings of the trial of Galileo Galilei are seen in this undated photo.

A letter from Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, a rallying force for the Catholic cause in England, wrote a letter in French to Pope Sixtus V from Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, England, in November 1586. In the letter, she professes her allegiance to the “universal” Catholic Church of Rome and rails against the falsehoods perpetrated by her enemies in England.

The letter was written a few weeks before her execution for alleged involvement in plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. She claimed that the tribunal that condemned her to death was illegitimate and heretical.

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